Cleaned-up versions of movies are causing a ruckus in Hollywood, with filmmakers lashing out at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for trying to make money off of censored versions you would normally see on an airplane or basic cable.
Sony announced last week that it was making the edited versions of movies, with all the mature content snipped out, available as a free extra for consumers who buy the theatrical version. The clean variants aren’t newly edited but merely the ones that already appear on airlines and television. The first wave includes 24 films, from comedy romp Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby to Academy Award-nominated drama Moneyball. Classics aren’t safe either, with sterilized versions of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II lined up as well.
Sony’s censored versions can be purchased through iTunes, Fandango, and VUDU. The clean cut of Step Brothers, for instance, gets rid of 23 instances of violence, 152 uses of foul language, and 91 iterations of sexual content. At 93 minutes, it’s five minutes shorter than the movie’s original run time.
“This is a pilot program, developed in response to specific consumer feedback, that offers viewers the option of watching an airline or TV version of certain movies when they purchase the original version,” said Man Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “We discussed this program, and the use of these preexisting versions, with each director or their representatives.”
“Directors have the right to edit their feature films for every non-theatrical platform, plain and simple.”
At least one creator says he had no idea it was happening. According to a report from the Hollywood Reporter, Adam McKay, who has two films on Sony’s list, wasn’t aware that they would be included. He wouldn’t have agreed to it if he knew, the report said. McKay couldn’t be immediately reached by Bloomberg for comment.
McKay isn’t the only Hollywood type who’s irked. Sony’s move is being decried by some of the West Coast’s loudest. Seth Rogen was quick to respond after Sony’s announcement, pleading with the studio to kill the program. None of Rogen’s films are on the initial list, and he hopes that won’t happen to his movies anyway, because, he said, they’re so lewd there “wouldn’t be enough screen time left.”
“I don’t dig any watered-down version being out there, but those are done so ramshackle they would never pass for the actual product,” Rogen wrote on Twitter. “I’d be worried these would be put together so well that in several years you wouldn’t know these weren’t the original films.”
Judd Apatow bluntly denounced Sony on Twitter and said it would “get hell” for meddling with directors’ work. “Shove the clean versions,” he said, adding an expletive for emphasis.
The Directors Guild of America agrees with Apatow, though in less colorful language. “Directors have the right to edit their feature films for every non-theatrical platform, plain and simple,” the DGA said in a statement. “Taking a director’s edit for one platform, and then releasing it on another—without giving the director the opportunity to edit—violates our Agreement.”On Wednesday, in response to the uproar, Sony offered to stop circulating the censored versions if directors disapprove.“We believed we had obtained approvals from the filmmakers,” Singh said in a statement. “But if any of them are unhappy or have reconsidered, we will discontinue it for their films.”